New York City Street Artist Series: Designer Bags by a Designer You Can Meet
>> Artists scattered throughout the streets of New York City are part of our city's magical atmosphere. Many are graduates (or attendees) of New York's finest universities, whereas others are creative souls who are confident that their work will make others happy.
Can you distinguish between a real artist, one who sells original, handmade items, and a street vendor who sells mass merchandise?
Even if you can, have you ever wondered how artists (often, a sensitive group) muster the courage to set up shop on the streets of New York?
I do hope you wondered because I am one of those artists whom you may have passed by, and I'd like you to know a bit about the business of selling in this city.
I've been creating things for quite a while, but I started selling my handmade, leather, one-of-a-kind S.HE.CAN BAGS (money belts or fanny packs) in New York since spring, 2006.
I used to live in Michigan, doing tailoring work. When I moved to New York, I decided to give a sewing machine to a friend; in exchange, she gave me some leather. I've always loved leather - the texture, the smell, the feel.
Necessity Breeds Creativity
In New York, I realized how inconvenient it was to carry around a purse. When walking around shopping, the last thing I wanted to do was lug one extra bag along. I never bought a hip bag, although they are convenient to use, because I thought that the commercial bags were bulky and ugly.
It obviously became time to sew up a solution! Using leather given to me by a friend, I designed a hip bag the way I liked it: something simple, something that would lie flat against my body, and something with an edge that could blend well with my outfits. And guess what? My creation caused quite a sensation!
Once I started wearing my hip bag around New York, people asked where I bought it. And so, the adventure began! I decided to quit my tailoring job to make and sell these bags. Of course, it was not as easy as it may sound and it took a lot of courage.
Since then, my bags then evolved into what they are now, and they continue to grow in design and style. It has been a real process, to say the least.
I discovered over time, for example, that slowly starting a business in the way I did was the best way to go. Constant feedback and ideas from people encouraged me to incorporate their suggestions and create items that I know they liked. Because of encouragement from my customers, I constantly experiment with colors; I have found that New Yorkers tend to be more drawn to bold colors - red is always the quickest to sell.
My prices range is between $15 and $25 - that's a steal for leather! I have consciously kept the prices low because I want people to be able to purchase them if they like them, without any hesitation or guilt. I know what it feels like to be on the other side: to be a consumer that sees something they really like but, well, can't afford it.
I also do custom orders. I enjoy these the most, as they allow me to work collaboratively and turn someone's vision of what they want into a reality. Best for me, my custom orders vary in that they are not always just bags.
The Display Stand: The idea for my display struck me quite easily, and I improvised on it later. I started out with one stand. As I couldn't afford to buy anything and because I had a clothing rack lying around, I just decided to use that - why not? Now I have two stands.
The Future: I started selling in New York in 2006 and feel that I have barely skimmed the possibilities of designing, creating, and selling accessories. As far as future plans are concerned, I feel that as long as I keep my options open, be persistent about meeting people, and more important, make a point of listening to them, the sky is the limit as to what I can do and where I can go. Perhaps this belief of mine best reflects the creative spirit that New York fosters in artists throughout the area!
Often located in and around Union Square
Interview of Sheila Jimenez by Karen Little. Photos by Karen Little. First published on 12/8/2006. All rights reserved by www.Littleviews.com.